Content of the article: "Plea to WG: Please change rewards and challenges to encourage play-to-win styles of gameplay. Dangle the carrot, WG."
I made a post the other day and in the comments we got to talking about how bad the team play and objective/winning-based play is, particularly at the higher tiers where there is a lot of damage to be chased. There were some really good discussions going there about why things are the way they are and how it might be possible to improve the state of play in WoWL.
One conclusion that seems to be agreed upon was that in order to change player behavior you would have to change the way players are rewarded for playing. You can change the hints in the loading screen or implement new tutorials or make a series on YouTube, but people generally won't notice them or won't slow down enough to check them out much. The only sure-fire way to change anything is to reward attempting to win and team-play. That's it. Players of this game and all games essentially chase dopamine. Some combinations of light and sound happen on screen that we associate with GOOD and our brains are flooded with neurochemicals that make us happy as little gamer-clams. Maybe it's ribbons or medals or credits or XP or maybe it's an in-game sound effect but it's poking a very basic place in our little animal brains that feels great and this is what we play for. It motivates us more than most realize. We are simple little creatures. I mean if you've ever played on the blue team I'm sure you've noticed we are simple creatures.
With this is mind the solution to changing behaviors is to shift the rewards to different tasks and achievements. Simply put, if WG holds out the carrot in the right direction, the players will change what they are doing to follow it. So let's change what is rewarded and by how much in World of Warships and we will see a better dynamic of play. Who knows, we may even come to enjoy tier VII and Legendary again. I will lay out some suggestions I and others came up with that could help achieve these goals. Some are pretty novel and some have been mentioned repeatedly.
For these examples I focused on changing poor destroyer play. I want to be clear that singling out DDs is purely for the purpose of creating examples and I am not saying "DDs and DD mains are what's wrong with this game." I play all classes and love destroyers. I could absolutely make these examples about cruisers or battleships if I wanted to. So if you are a DD main and want to write below "What about cruisers not hunting DDs actively enough or BBs that chase a wounded cruiser to the map border and take themselves out of the game by doing so?," you are preaching to the converted. I completely agree with you. Players of all classes exhibit terrible game-throwing behavior and the game would be better if that went away. But if I cited all three classes this post would be longer than Samuel L. Jackon's filmography and would probably have about as much profanity. So I picked one for clarity and brevity. So DD players, I love you. Hell, I NEED you. Get out there and spot those- wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Ok, let's meet Player A and Player B and taker a look at a game they both had side by side.
Player A: Player A spawns at the C cap but some very slow enemy BBs spawn by A cap. Player A crosses the map and launches torpedoes. The first enemy BB is easily sunk. The second BB is smarter and changes speed and direction. Player A realizes they won't be able to sink it without closing to very close range where the torpedoes can't be dodged. Screw it. Pain is temporary, chicks dig scars and glory lasts forever. All ahead full! Player A closes to suicide range and takes a lot of fire on the way in. They use their damage control party but are hit again and set on fire. But just before the fire destroys their ship they launch all their torpedoes and sink an undamaged battleship. In just 5 minutes player A did 90k damage, got two devastating strikes and a whole bunch of colorful ribbons. Back to port to do it all again. Player A doesn't know if the blue team wins or not and won't even get the battle results until after playing and dying in a second glorious match.
Player B: Player B spawns by A cap. They don't like this side of the map and no BBs are quickly spotted. But player B can't abandon the friendly battleship and cruiser over here and there are already destroyers in the center and on the flank. Player B is needed here and stays here. Player B pushes into the cap and begins to capture it but the progress is stopped. The point is contested. Player B spots a cruiser sailing toward the cap bow-on to the friendly ships and taking little damage but the cruiser isn't in the cap yet. Then player B spots the enemy DD. Player B opens fire and does moderate damage but provokes the DD to return fire. Player B deploys a smoke screen to go unspotted and uses it to disengage and flee the cap because it isn't worth dying over. The enemy DD remains spotted because it fired and the friendly CL quickly sinks it. Player B also very quickly snapped off a volley of torpedoes at the charging enemy cruiser. They weren't aimed for more than 2 seconds, just fired off in a general direction. The enemy cruiser easily avoids them but has to turn to do so which gives player Bs teammate in the BB an easy broadside. Enemy cruiser destroyed. All quiet at cap A. Player B moves in and takes the cap. Now player B can chase BBs. Player B sails off toward the other side of the map and launches torpedoes at a BB, then deploys smoke and begins raining HE shells onto it. But there's a problem and the team is using comms to alert player B. "I need intelligence data!" It's the friendly BB from earlier and it's on fire, being shelled by something unspotted. Player B leaves the smoke, abandons the enemy BB and sails toward an island. Player B spots a cruiser that was firing undetected. With the cruiser spotted the blue team can concentrate their shells on the cruiser and sink it. Ok, back to launching torpedoes at battleships. But someone is flipping the cap that player B took earlier. Player be sails into it and spots an enemy DD trying to take it. The enemy DD drops smoke so player B launches torpedoes staggered into the smoke and drives the enemy out. A fire fight begins and the wounded enemy DD slinks around an island and disappears. The cap is safe. But player B knows that a DD can win or lose a game and chases after it. After a few agonizing and frustrating minutes player B finds the DD by seeing which direction its torpedoes were launched from towards blue BBs. Player B spots and sinks the enemy DD for their first kill. But there's a serious problem. Player B is now the only surviving member of the blue team. It's a 1v4. And one of them is a radar cruiser. Time to put on the carry pants and try to take out all these…wait. Player B looks at the points, looks at the clock and does a little rough math. Player B activates the engine boost and goes for the cap furthest from the enemy fleet. The enemy are sailing toward the cap but they have no DD left and aren't fast enough to stop the capture. But there's still time and they're still coming. Player B considers defending it but the radar cruiser is almost in range so they launch torpedoes and sail away. The torpedoes fail to hit but the cruiser has to change course to avoid them which buys a few extra seconds until they can enter the cap. They begin to flip to but it's too late. The Blue team have gone ahead, the clock has run out and Player B has won. Player B doesn't have all that many ribbons and only one medal, but it is a Solo Warrior. One kill and less than 20K damage in a game that went the full 15 minutes.
Now if I ask the rhetorical question "which player got more XP and credits for their game?," it might seem obvious, but it isn't. What's obvious is that player B did a lot more to determine who won than player A, but that doesn't mean they were rewarded more. Looking at the above examples without exact figures, ribbons and medals we just don't know who was rewarded more. But that's a problem. It should be a no-brainer but it isn't. We all know player B played better than player A but if that kind of play isn't incentivized many players (Not all. Some people are competitive enough to play to win all the time and some are too motivated by flashy clip-worthy moments to play for anything but dev strikes) will gravitate towards the Player A style of flash and damage chasing. And ultimately that is a huge part of what is making some high tiers (It happens at low- tiers too, but those players are new and can't be expected to play well) so painful to play.
What if we rewarded player B appropriately for their game? Would that change how people played the game? Well it wouldn't change everyone but I would wager it will change a very large portion of the player base once they realize how much the game is rewarding them for playing to win and to help their team and how little it does for just chasing a BB to the edge of the map. So how do we reward them? Let's start with the most immediately visible and obvious ways.
Ribbons, Medals, XP, Credits and the Results Screen
Add a ribbon for spotting. I didn't even have to come up with this idea because WG already has. WoW on PC has spotting ribbons already. So someone clearly knows there's value in visibly rewarding spotting.
How about adding a ribbon for damage caused by spotting or at least showing in the results screen in details so a player can see the value they provided by being a scout? In fact the post-game screen could show precisely which tasks awarded how much XP. That could really show player where the value lies.
If there was a ribbon for spotting damage, why not a medal? Perhaps if 10K damage is done because of your spotting you get the "Pathfinder," medal?
And what about not only awarding XP for these things but weighing XP differently for each task based on your class. This one might be a bit controversial but hear me out.
Since a huge part of a DDs job is spotting, capping and sinking enemy DDs why not weigh those things more greatly than kills or damage in general. A player who sinks two enemy battleships might get a nice amount of XP and credits but a player who spots, sinks an enemy DD and takes a couple of caps should be rewarded far more heavily. A system like this would incentivize playing your role well instead of getting kills and damage which is currently the great equalizer. In such a system the rewards would be weighed differently in different classes. For example a BB might spot a ship and take a cap incidentally. And that's great. But it isn't really what they need to do. So maybe they are rewarded a bit for this but they are rewarded more heavily for raw damage because that's kind of more their role. And if they sink a radar cruiser maybe that's worth more than a kill on another ship. Obviously such a system would be complicated to design but if it was very well thought out it could give a lot of direction to each class.
Challenges should also promote a ships role. The community has been pretty vocal about how some campaign challenges promote bad play and the torpedo hit challenge is one of the worse offenders. Why not have those challenges designed for the ships roles better and encourage team-play and playing to win? So for destroyer challenges it could be about capping, spotting, sinking enemy DDs, etc. Shell hits could be for cruisers, cruiser kills for BBs. You get the idea. Players have something to strive for but none of it leads to kamikaze tactics or game-throwing.
Unlocking ships in the Tech Tree and buying premium ships
We have all had the experience of watching people on our team and asking "How did you even make it to this tier playing this way?" And certainly we have seen players in a ship they aren't ready for but they just bought it and jumped in.
This might also ruffle some feathers but what if you couldn't unlock a tech tree ship or play a premium without doing some "play the right way," challenges first?
Nothing crazy hard or time consuming. Just some simple and short trials with your current ship or any ship of the right class so long as it isn't more than one tier lower than the one you're going for. You want that Fletcher? Of course you do. Well the last step to getting it in your Benson is to Cap x number of flags, sink x number DDs, cause x amount spotting damage. Once you've done that the Fletcher is yours. This can work for premium ships too. "Congrats on completing the campaign, but before you take out your tier VII battleship here are a few simple tasks to complete which will make you a better player." Each class would have different kinds of objectives but all would be about winning. None would have very higher numbers required. Nothing you couldn't do in 3-5 games. And the low tiers wouldn't have to do it because they are still getting their feet wet. Perhaps these start at tier III. At least this way everyone would have to participate in a tutorial-like activity every time they want to advance. It won't change how everyone plays but it will at least make players prove they can do it right if they have to. If it even effects a portion or the populations that could make a huge difference.
For the moment that's all I have. None of these ideas are flawless and I haven't thought of everything but if anyone comes up with a great idea I will edit the post to add it. Again I just want to reiterate I talked mostly about DDs just for the sake of example and if I used a different class all my examples would look different.
I also want to say I am not some god-tier player. I've played about 6 months, have fewer than twenty Krakens and I have never had to 200K damage game. I make mistakes and stupid decisions, but I try my best to play for the W and to support my team. And I generally am the first to say "My fault. I screwed up and threw. I should have done xyz differently." I just really love this game but get very frustrated game after game when I watch a team all go for the same cap or sail around islands that take them out of the game for three minutes. Stuff like that. It get's very old when it happens all the time. And I don't think players will change unless you make them change. And the best way to do that is with the carrot, not the stick. Positive reenforcement.
Thoughts are welcome and encouraged. And WG, if you're listening…well…thanks for listening!
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